The Millennials, still a challenge


You would think that by now, the auto retail world would have come to grips with Millennials. After all, they were born between the years 1980 to 2000. But no.

So a panel of Millennials, under the guidance of moderator Brent Wees, partner Glovebox, set out to shine some light on the issues at the AutoDealers Innovation Series put on by the Trillium Auto Dealers Association.

Decoding Millennials : From left: Justina Wilson (Mississauga Toyota), Derek Stewart (Pathway Hyundai), Daryl Marritt (Attrell Toyota), Michael Cirillo (FlexDealer) and Alan Bird (SCI Marketview Canada).

Getting answers is crucial because this generation is now responsible for 28 per cent of auto sales in North America. Analysts estimate that the percentage will grow to anywhere from 40 to 49 per cent by in four years time.

The panel tried to decode their contemporaries when it comes to dealing with them as customers, hiring them and keeping them happy, productive employees.

The panel was made up of Alan Bird, CEO SCI Marketview Canada, Michael Cirillo, president of FlexDealer, Justina Wilson, branding and communications specialist at Missississauga, Derek Stewart, Pathway Hyundai, and Daryl Marritt, business development manager Attrell Toyota.


The Millennial Customer, a Snapshot

Daryl Marritt: They have the advantage of the Internet and access to information, but they are limited in financial knowhow.

Alan Bird: The key to dealing with them is transparency. It’s a transparent universe, but we have spent years trying to control the customer from the moment they walk in our front door. But that won’t work anymore. If they want an online price, give it to them. I know it feels like you’re losing control, but give it to them.

There’s a conflict between dealers and the OEMs over what inventory goes online and who gets to see it. Dealers say “It’s mine and if they want to see it, they can come to my website.”

Ford is taking a leading edge, putting all inventory on their corporate website. Yes, there are customers closer to you who found inventory at another dealer’s website. But if you are doing a good job, they will come to you and ask you if you can get it anyways.

That’s not just the Millennials, but the Boomers. They don’t want to go to 18 different sites to see the car they want.

Ford is taking a clear step that will become the norm.


Justina Wilson: We look at FaceBook pages to see how other dealers are communicating and interacting with Millennials.

Michael Cirillo: On most FaceBook pages, the dealership platform is the same as the website and says the same things – how long the dealership has been in business and so on. You have to show people that yours is a brand they want to be involved with.

Daryl Marritt:  We try and treat our FaceBook page as a barbeque where people can hang out. We don’t try to sell there. We watch how other companies interact with their customers on social media. You can learn from them.


Don’t Send Your Millennials To Conferences, Take Them!

Daryl Marritt: What happens when you go to a conference like this one and come back with an idea and have to go through the same fi lter of someone who’s not there and you don’t feel empowered to make the decision? Only for so long can you keep doing this before the passion will die. In other words, there’s a need for senior management to attend events like these, to be a partner in change, before we are forced to change with someone like Tesla, Apple or Google coming into our space.

Alan Bird: Don’t think of events like these as expenses but investments. You will get your investment back tenfold. You will either pay it this way or in recruiting fees.


Michael Cirillo: Do you see yourself as a coach? Have you given your team players all the resources they need to win the game. Don’t be the boss. You are the coach. What coach doesn’t sit down with their team?

Derek Stewart: Sit down with staff. Find out their strengths and weaknesses. These are your frontline people. Have conversations with them. Use their strengths. Put people in posts where they are going to succeed. If they are good at the reception, put them there. If they are good at online, let them work there.


Justina Wilson: I’m new to the industry. I’ve only been in the auto industry three months now. I was in the ad industry where the hours were 14 to 15 hours a day. As a Millennial, we value work/life balance, but we know we are new to the industry and we have to learn and pay our dues. But there wasn’t as much work/life balance in the advertising world. When I interviewed for the job at Mississauga Toyota, they asked me what I valued and I do value work/life balance. But they let me work at home as long as I get my work done and I achieve my goals. So if your leader sits you down and tells you what your goals are but lets you also use your technology to work at home, that’s really powerful to me.

Alan Bird: Try to make your work feel like life and you will find out they will work as many hours. And, in a lot of cases, you will find you are kicking them out because it’s a place where they like to work and care about.

Daryl Marritt : Millennials believe in the work/life balance. They say they will work for less in return for better hours. Give them one Saturday off a month. When you have digital ads on all the time, everyday is selling day. There may be more walk-ins on Saturday, but you don’t see the same volume sold on Saturday. So you can afford to give someone a Saturday off.


Michael Cirillo: Working Saturdays is the nature of the beast. But if you emphasize that the dealership is a place where they can succeed – whatever your personal definition of success is – this is a good vehicle for you to achieve that. And when you explain that, the work/life balance doesn’t become as big a topic. Set expectations at the onset. Millennials are people. We want to achieve success in life just like anyone else does.

Derek Stewart: The law of Saturdays applies to sales. Explain to them that Saturdays can be scaled back by referrals. Tell them to build up their customer lists. You can’t avoid the first few years of Saturday work. Show them how and give them the road map. It may take fi ve to six years. Referrals are a powerful tool. But if they fail to have that, it’s going to be a long, long road. Problem with Millennials is that if they don’t see progress within eight months to two years, they are looking elsewhere. So show them there is a way to get there.

Daryl Marritt: We struggle to get good talent. I asked someone what it would take for him to hire us – because that’s the reality. When you ask that question or in an exit interview ask why someone left, you will learn a lot about your business and how you can grow.